A conscience is that still small voice that people won't listen to.

-Jiminy Cricket in "Pinocchio" (1940)The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Or should that be the truth, a portion of the truth and some things surrounding the truth?

Lies and lying are big in the news right now. Honest!

But the nice thing about show business is that no one expects the truth. Jim Carrey's "Liar Liar" may have been about lawyers, but it could just as easily have been about show folks in general, or movie studio and network executives in particular. (Maybe that's why so many of the latter are lawyers these days.)

But you can still figure out the truth, if you know how to read between the lines:

- THE AVENGERS: Warner Bros. publicity executive Charlotte Kandel said last week there was a good reason "The Avengers" was not screened for critics. "We've always been concerned that reviews of the film will have comparisons to the original `Avengers.' . . . We feel confident in the movie, and we're pleased at the result."

Translation: "The picture stinks and we don't want critics warning the potential audience." (It worked, by the way - "The Avengers" opened big; look for it to fall off dramatically next week.)

- THE JERRY SPRINGER SHOW: Springer says he's going to clean up his act.

Translation: Guests who clobber each other with chairs will have better hygiene.

- DEEP IMPACT: The ads say, "Oceans rise. Cities fall. Hope survives." Audiences embraced this disaster picture about a team of scientists who are sent into space to intercept a comet racing toward the Earth.

Translation: "Ticket sales rise. Logic falls. Paramount Pictures survives."

- ARMAGEDDON: The filmmakers said that even though this asteroid-crashing-to-Earth movie came two months after "Deep Impact," it was actually in production first - and it's really a completely different film.

Translation: We have Bruce Willis, and the script is even dumber than "Deep Impact." (It didn't matter; both were big hits . . . so to speak.)

- DR. QUINN, MEDICINE WOMAN: CBS president Leslie Moonves said he canceled the show because "Viewership levels were going in the wrong direction."

Translation: "If you watch the show, you're too old for us to care about you."

- LOLITA: For two years, American movie distributors declined to pick up Adrian Lyne's $60 million remake of the Vladimir Nabokov novel (which was first made into a film by Stanley Kubrick in 1962). Then, Showtime picked it up for its U.S. debut on pay-cable TV earlier this month. Each movie studio that turned it down said the rejection had nothing to do with the film's subject matter, which is the story of a 37-year-old man's affair with a 14-year-old girl.

Translation: The studios would be happy to distribute a movie that romanticizes pedophilia . . . but this one cost too much and will have trouble making a profit.

- DATELINE NBC: In addition to anchoring the new CNBC news program "Up-front Tonight," Geraldo Rivera will be contributing news stories to the more mainstream "Dateline NBC" magazine this season and was hired because he's a seasoned journalist who has paid his dues.

Translation: In the current too-many-news-magazine-shows climate, maybe the controversial, outspoken Rivera can improve this one's ratings.

- THE X-FILES: "The truth is out there." Despite this tag line for the film and TV series, "The X-Files" actually seems to be saying that all that's out there is un-stop-pable corruption, along with massive cov-er-ups.

Translation: "Trust no one."

- FATHER KNOWS BEST, THE SHARI LEWIS SHOW, THE HOWDY DOODY SHOW, THE ROY ROGERS SHOW: The four icons of these '50s TV series passed away recently, and there was an outpouring of ink from baby-boomer journalists who had embraced them during childhood. (Robert Young starred in "Father Knows Best," ventriloquist Shari Lewis and her puppet Lamb Chop got their start on "Captain Kangaroo," "Buffalo Bob" Smith helped make "Howdy Doody" a household name and Roy Rogers was a cowboy superstar.) TV execs paid respects, noting that each was a one-of-a-kind, values-driven performer.

Translation: There would be no place for any of them in modern television, save PBS.

And that's the way it is.

Would I lie to you?